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Bringing Your New Cat Home

Remember that your new cat is overwhelmed and confused at this point. The smells, sounds, and place are unfamiliar. Those first few days in a new environment are so important. Here are some tried-and-true methods to make that transition easier for you and your new kitty!

Get your house cat ready

Cats like high places like the tops of cabinets. If you have something there you don't want disturbed, you may want to take it down at first. Look for holes where they can climb into and cover them - you don't want to open up walls to find your new kitty.


Start them off in a guest bedroom, bathroom, or laundry room. Make sure your new cat's room has water, the same food given to him at the shelter, some toys, a clean litterbox, and a scratching post. Food and litter should not be close together. When introducing them to the rest of the family, sit on the floor and let them come over on their own time. If they don't, leave and try again later. 


They may not show much interest in food so don't worry. By the second day, your kitty will be hungry enough to start nibbling. Keep the food and water fresh. If they show signs of wanting to explore outside the safe room, make sure other pets and family members won't startle them while they slowly expand their territory. 

Hiding spots

Because cats love small places, give them a place to hide if they feel the need to. The cat carrier, a covered cat bed – even a box with an opening. Make sure that opening faces the door to the room so they can keep an eye out for "intruders". 

Scratching posts

Cats need to scratch. It relaxes them. It's not a bad idea to have a scratch post in every room just in case the need to scratch something comes up. Want to learn more about scratching posts? CLICK HERE.

Other cats in the home

With the new cat in their safe room, the other cat or cats can smell them under the door and your new cat will get used to the other cat's smell in a safe environment. No face-to-face interaction in the first week!


Feeding time is the best time to get them to know each other better because they see good things happen when they're together. Place feeding dishes on opposite sides of the closed door and bring the dishes closer each time towards the door. 

The sock exchange

Time for the sock exchange! Take a clean sock and gently rub the newcomer along the face to collect facial pheromones (friendly hormones). Now, place that sock in the resident cat's area giving your kitty a chance to do some investigation. If you have Feliway (or another calming spray), spray it at the bottom part of the sock (not where you rubbed your new cat's face) so that, in theory, your resident cat will view them as his own. 


Now take the other sock and do the same with your resident cat. 


With your resident cat safely stowed in a locked room, allow your newcomer to explore the house and spread their scent around. Do this a couple of times a day. Depending on the sock reaction, you can let your resident cat explore your new cat's safe room.


Open up the safe room just a bit while feeding so they can see each other. Do short sessions and offer a tiny amount of food. Then close the safe room door. 


Full open door depends on how the interactions are going. If you feel more face time is right, try three stacked baby gates (as cats can jump) or install a temporary screen door during feeding time. You can use one baby gate if you're standing by the door ready to close it if things get out of hand. 


Play with your new cat inside the safe room and have another person play with your resident cat on the other side. Switch. You don't want your cats competing for your love. Playtime associates happy times with the other cat. 


Ready to get them together? Leave the safe room open and make sure your resident cat's litter box is safe and unchanged. Continue to feed them in each other's presence but in separate bowls. DON'T RUSH THINGS!!! Your new cat's happiness depends on your patience.

Dog or dogs in the home?

Install a strong baby gate (preferably at least 36 inches high) in the door to your cat's safe room. Let them see each other quickly and reward them when there is no growling or spitting with a yummy treat. Close the door. Repeat this process 5-10 times in a row, 2-3 times a day. Pay attention to body language. If they seem relaxed, extend the time they can see each other.


Always close the door on a good note. Let your new cat set the pace. If your cat is afraid, slow things down. If they're curious and want to jump the gate to greet your dog, you can introduce them in another room with your dog on a leash, just in case. When they behave well, reward each with a treat. They will eventually learn that being with each other is a great thing. 

Keep your dog away from your cat's litter box - it's stressful for your cat and dangerous for your dog. Consider feeding your cat on a high surface like a window sill or dresser so it is not tempting to your dog. 

More questions?

Have a cat question/concern? Send our Cat Manager an e-mail to cats@HudsonValleySPCA.orgWe will get back to you as soon as we can!

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